GROWTH UNDER MISS LYON-CONTINUED. RELIGIOUS HISTORY.
Year by year there was steady spiritual growth; for there was devout
planting and watering, and God gave the increase. In the words of Dr. Hitchcock:
"It was an almost uninterrupted display of divine converting power. And
yet so busy and enthusiastic in literary instruction were Miss Lyon and
her teachers, that one would hardly have thought of the existence of that
deep under-current which seemed to flow from the river of God and refresh
the whole landscape. But the current was always there and thence carne
the power that kept the windows of heaven always open." Hundreds began
the Christian life and Christians grew in grace. Sometimes a more special
work was sudden and rapid. Sometimes it began the first week of school
through the year. If the blessing tarried, perhaps Miss Lyon would withdraw for a few days to her quiet room at Deacon Safford's or Deacon Porter's, to wait on the Lord and learn more perfectly his will. Her own unction would be communicated to the teachers on her return and soon the presence of the Spirit would be known in the household by the subdued voice, light footstep, and gentle manner of all; by the chastened spirit of Christians; by deep conviction of sin and great joy in Christ the Saviour. The human instrumentalities were earnest prayer and the plain presentation of divine truth. Except on fast-days, ordinary pursuits were neither suspended nor interrupted. Hence there was little or no reaction.
The following from the seminary journal shows how the annual fast-days
were observed. This was on the first Monday of the year, but with change
of subjects for prayer, the description would apply equally well to a February
fast-day. "The dawn found a few unitedly asking for a blessing on the day.
Instead of going to breakfast many remained alone in their rooms. A prayer
meeting was held at eight o'clock, and at nine we met in the seminary hall.
Miss Lyon read John vii. 37. She seemed to feel that this may be to us
'the last great day of the feast,' as our term is soon to close; and her
earnest, impressive appeal to all 'to come and take of the water of life
to-day,' will not soon be forgotten. She then gave us subjects for thought
and prayer. She asked us to pray for the conversion of all in this family,
that so Christ's kingdom may be built tip and the world converted; for
all missionary societies, especially for the American Board, and for its
officers, on whom such a crushing weight of care and responsibility rests;
for the different missionary stations; and for all missionaries, particularly
those that have gone out from us; to pray for them by name; to pray that
more laborers may be raised up, and that the missionary spirit may be increased
all over our land. She talked to us nearly an hour, and made us feel that
the day would be too short for the petitions we should desire to present before the mercy-seat. Prayer meetings were appointed at different hours through the day. Roommates, by attending these in turn, had their own rooms, alternately alone. The prayers were all voluntary and those who offered them appeared to draw very near the throne of grace. The Holy Spirit seemed specially present. At four o'clock three meetings were appointed; one for professing Christians in the senior class, another for the same in the junior and middle classes, and a third in Miss Lyon's room, for such of those without hope as were disposed to attend. Two only of this Dumber were absent. At the close of this meeting Miss Lyon invited any who desired to be made special subjects of prayer to come again at seven o'clock, and requested several of the teachers to meet with them at that time. More than twenty returned. At half past seven, professing Christians met in praying circles as is usual Sabbath evening."
In the first year of the seminary there were but ten or twelve who did not class themselves as Christians when they entered. The first marked revival occurred in the second year. The last Thursday in February bad been spent in fasting and prayer for literary institutions. Saturday was a day of recreation, but nearly the whole school gathered in a prayer meeting in the afternoon. When it was closed no one rose to go. After another prayer it was proposed that each should retire to her room for half an hour, and that then those who wished should come again. They went and returned to plead once more for their companions out of Christ. The next day fifteen were rejoicing in hope. Gradually their number increased to thirty, and at the end of the year only one remained without hope. Not long after, prayer for her was answered also. The effect of that revival was felt for years.
said she wished us to enjoy, lively, social intercourse. But at our evening meal there was one table where there was unbecoming mirth and even frivolity, and most of those at the table were professing Christians. As we sat back for family devotions, Miss Lyon rose and said: 'I have thought that perhaps some of God's dear children here do not know that his Spirit is striving with souls in our family. There are those who long to find a Saviour before this Sabbath has passed. Would you not like to pray for them?' She said no more. Half-formed purposes to seek the Lord were strengthened and careless Christians felt that they were on holy ground. As we passed out, a stranger threw her arm around me saying, 'You do not know me, but I thought perhaps you would pray that I may find Christ this Sabbath day.' I had been reproved by Miss Lyon's words, and now another reproof had come. I sought my closet to weep and to feel that if a child of God, I must always be ready to pray and to labor for souls. Many others left that room with similar feelings, and those few words of Miss Lyon seemed given to guide us all the year, and we know that they have led many to watch carefully all their lives lest by any means they grieve the Spirit of God from an inquiring soul."
It was that year that plans were formed for enlarging the building. Exceedingly desirous to have this done, and striving also for improvement in the department of instruction, Miss Lyon feared lest becoming engrossed in these things she should lose a spiritual blessing. God knew her motives and granted her desires. While other interests prospered she had the greater joy of seeing all her children walking in the truth, thirty of them having entered that path during the year.
The future was bright with hope. But at this point, to use Miss
Lyon's words, "God saw that great trials must be set over against great
prosperity." In the summer vacation of 1840, one after another of her pupils
was attacked with fever, and nine of them died.
On the last Sabbath evening of the term, in the usual circles for
prayer, there had been given a pledge to remember each other at sunset
on the Sabbath, when they should be separated. "Three weeks from that hour,
one on whom heaven was opening prayed for the others and then said: 'Mother,
they will pray for me now. They will not know that I am dying, but I am
so happy to think they will pray for me.' Another, as she asked the hour,
said, 'I should be glad to go while they are praying for me;' while a third
said to weeping friends, 'There will come peace, for they are praying God
to bless me.' One was released at that hour of prayer and others gathered
strength soon to follow, while the Lord said to some longing to depart,
'Ye cannot come to me now, but grace shall be given you to meet the ills
of life as you go back from this view of heaven.' Fullness of joy in Christ
was bestowed on all who died, and to those who came back to earth an experience
of love and trust in him such as they had not known before." So wrote Fidelia
Fiske, who was one of the number. But while departing ones rejoiced, all
the waves and billows seemed to be rolling over Miss Lyon. "I was afraid,"
she said, "to take up a paper lest I should see some new name added to
the dead and not have strength to meet it. I was afraid to ask a question,
or even listen to conversation, lest I should not find myself prepared
for what I might hear. There were days in which I could not attempt anything
except to ask God to hold me by his own hand. I had no heart to ask for
anything but to have my trust in God made strong." To another she said:
"The hand of God has been laid heavily upon me. I have been led through
deep waters, but they have not overflowed me. None but my heavenly Father
knows how great a trial this has been. While others have been inquiring
about the natural cause, I have felt that we ought also to inquire about
the moral cause, and seek to know what the Lord would have us learn." She
was always as willing to learn as a child and ready to make any change
favorite plans that might be required. In allusion to false reports she said: " If we are grieved by what is unjustly reported, let us remember the example of our Saviour. He opened not his mouth. Let God in his own way and time vindicate his own acts. Let us commit ourselves to the covenant-keeping God, who doeth all things well."
The fever caused many failures among the candidates for the next year, but others were waiting for vacancies and the house was filled. She received them with peculiar tenderness. One who met her that day for the first time, tells us of the opening, October 3rd. "We met in the hall at nine o'clock. Miss Lyon read a psalm and led in a prayer which was very comprehensive and affecting. Its burden was that if any of us had not given ourselves to Christ we might be led to do so even before we entered upon our studies; that the blessings of life and health might crown the year, if consistent with God's will, but if any were to be removed by death, that they might here ripen for heaven."
In the midst of her sore trial her thoughts turned more to the goodness
of God than to any other theme, and this was the subject for the Bible
lesson of the first Sabbath. Alluding to it at the breakfast table she
said: "We hope to spend forty Sabbaths together, and will not those who
love the Lord speak often one to another? then will he write for us a book
of precious remembrance, for he has said he will. After forty Sabbaths
we shall separate; we have dear ones here who have no hope of meeting us
beyond this life. May not such a hope be given to some of them this first
Sabbath morning?" Another morning she used the text, "In everything by
prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known
unto God," and added, "when he says everything, he means just what he says.
Those who are Christians can do so, and those who are not, may begin to-day.
Do not be afraid because you know you are not a Christian. Does the heart
go out tenderly this morning to the friends she has left? Does any one feel anxious about her examinations? Carry all to your heavenly Father. You may thus get an acquaintance with him that will make you long to say to God, 'my Father.'" Many of her pupils recall words like these among her first addresses: "My heart goes out very tenderly this morning to those parents who have entrusted you to my care. They have no choicer treasures than these precious daughters. We are ready to labor for you in love and fidelity, and may you all be faithful. And oh! what inexpressible tenderness in the thought that you may all be preparing for heaven here!"
The blessings of life and health, bodily and spiritual, were bestowed. That year there were thirty who at first stood aloof from Christ. One of them came to him during the first week. At the opening meeting for Christians, Miss Lyon reminded them that they were enjoying privileges which they could not buy - that a debt was due to the founders of the seminary which could be canceled only by a useful Christian life. Referring to those who had not found Christ she asked, "Shall we help them find him?" Her appeal met with a warm response, and Christians labored diligently for souls and helped care for the lambs as they were brought into the fold. To these co-workers we find her saying, May 19th: "It is a solemn thought that all that we do for the four in our family still strangers to Christ will be done in a few short weeks."
Perhaps no morning exercise of this fourth year was more impressive
than that of December 3rd. Miss, Lyon was passing through new trials. A
few weeks before, she bad been called to the death-bed of her youngest
sister, for whom she had a strong affection. Now she had come from watching
by her dying mother. When she entered the ball, looked around on her pupils
and gave them her good morning, there was an irresistible drawing of hearts
toward her. She was usually so busy and said so little of personal matters
that few realized the strength of her love to her friends. Controlling her emotions, she made no effort to conceal them, as she spoke tenderly of her mother, to whose comfort she had hoped to minister for years to come, whose counsels she had always loved to seek, whose daily prayers she had never known what it was to miss before. And now she felt a loneliness of which she said she had no previous conception. Then she turned to the words of Paul, who would not have us ignorant concerning them who are asleep, nor sorrow as those without hope. With her eye upon new visions of the things that God has prepared for them that love him, she had returned to her beloved flock. They knew before she told them, "Heaven seems nearer to me than ever before, and labor on earth sweeter"; and they saw new force in the words, "Our first great blessing is that we may be in Christ, the second, that we may labor for him."
These repeated strokes bore heavily on Miss Lyon's strength. She met the school as usual for religious instruction, but others took her place in the class room much of the year. New vigor was derived in the early summer from a journey with Deacon and Mrs. Safford, from which she returned to find encouraging progress on the new part of the house. There was almost perfect health in school, and there had been so rich a spiritual blessing through the year that she said, "It seems to me that I never had a school in which there was more of the spirit of heaven. All but three express hope in Christ."
Many who had been detained by the illness of the preceding autumn
were present at the re-opening in 1841. Taken from their books, they had
been learning other lessons in their prolonged vacation. The Sabbath twilight
concert had bound them to each other and made more dear the privilege of
united prayer. It was on their return that the daily "recess meeting" began,
and the fifth year was one of marked growth in Christian character. "About
forty who came among
us strangers to God," wrote Miss Fiske, "were numbered, we hope, among the followers of the Lamb before they left us."
The following description, by Miss Whitman, is as applicable after forty-five years as it was then. "The recess meetings are short seasons of prayer held at eight o'clock. Often at the ringing of the bell the whole school is seen moving toward the appointed places. For about two minutes the passage halls are thronged. Then all is silent save the voice of song from eight or ten different quarters. The low voice of supplication follows. The bell again rings. All rise and return to their rooms. A few words are exchanged between roommates, and all are again absorbed in study. Refreshed in spirit and strengthened in mind by this elevation of the soul to heaven, they are able to re-apply themselves vigorously to their lessons. The moral influence of these little meetings has always been great. Those who are disposed to continue in their rooms, cannot be rude with such impressive voices around them. Every influence leads them to go with those whose hearts incline them to pray. The section teacher seeks to induce all the members of her own division to attend. As the meeting is entirely voluntary, the young ladies regard it as peculiarly their own. If is a thermometer, indicating the spiritual temperature, both among Christians and the impenitent."
In the work of organization, Miss Lyon had been relieved of much
care in the literary department by her associate principal, Miss Caldwell,
who left the seminary at the end of the first year; she soon became the
wife of Rev. J. P. Cowles, and with him, for more than thirty years, carried
on the seminary at Ipswich. For the next four years Miss Lyon had gone
on without a nominal associate. Her band of teachers had been reenforced
the second year by the three graduates of the first class, and the third
year by four of the twelve who formed the second class. Some of these having
gone to other fields, six new ones came to Miss Lyon's aid in
1842. Miss Abigail Moore, a niece of Miss Lyon and a graduate the first year, with Miss Mary C. Whitman, of the second year's class, were made associate principals. So fully were they able to carry out her plans that they seemed scarcely less essential to the growing seminary than Miss Lyon herself.
In December she wrote: "We have had a very prosperous year in worldly things. Everything is systematized, and Miss Moore and Miss Whitman urge forward the wheels so successfully that all seems more than ever like clock-work. I enjoy very much having everything done better by others than it can be by myself. If this pleasure continues to increase as it has done for a year or two, I hope I may be prepared to be. happy in being old and laid aside as a useless thing. But in spiritual things we are less favored. There has been less interest than we have had any year since the first. Pray for us that we may not receive all our good things in this life." In a few months this prayer was answered in a way they had not known before.
The five previous years had borne rich fruit. The Lord had set his seal on the seminary. Out of one hundred and forty who had entered it disclaiming personal interest in Christ, over one hundred and twenty-five had enlisted in his service, and each year sent forth an increasing number of Christian laborers. It will be remembered that a prominent object of the seminary as first announced was "to prepare teachers for the millions of our population calling for education," especially "in the great valley of the West."
Teaching was the only calling, outside the home, then open to women,
and there was scarcely a thought of going from the home land to teach.
Four had become wives of foreign missionaries, one of them having left
the first year to go to the Zulus in South Africa; a fifth was teaching
in the Cherokee Mission at Park Hill, Arkansas. Eleven of the twelve who
graduated in July of the second year were teaching in five different states
before November. Nearly sixty had completed the
course and many of them were filling important positions. The seminary was practically doing the work of a normal school. If in any respects it was less intense for a technical purpose than that which began at Lexington in 1839, it was deeper and more comprehensive in its design, since it was at the same time fitting women for all the relations of life.
Miss Lyon was grateful for the prosperity of the seminary and for all that had been done through it., yet she feared it was not doing all that it could for the kingdom of Christ. Her chief desire was not that the seminary should flourish, but that his cause should be promoted through it. She could accept no standard but the highest. Dwelling on the sacrifice of Christ, offered not for one person nor for one people but for all men, she said: "If we would labor aright for Christ our hearts must take in the whole world." She saw that this habit, like any other, must be gained by present practice, not by resolutions for the future. But how should school-girls be trained to live for the conversion of the world? "There is not a day," she said, "in which I do not ask how I can enlighten the understanding and direct the feelings of my pupils aright on this great subject. The sacrifice in giving my little is nothing in comparison with my anxiety on this point." After the second year a meeting had been held once or twice every month with this object - "to disseminate information throughout the school relative to the moral and religious condition of the human race, to excite inquiry, and to awaken zeal in the work of the world's conversion."
A quickened Christian life had already enlarged their desires. In
their recess meetings, Monday was devoted to foreign missions, Tuesday
to home missions, Wednesday to the Bible and Tract Societies, Thursday
to home churches and friends, Friday to their own and other seminaries,
and Saturday they pleaded for Abraham's seed, and prayed, "Thy kingdom
come in all the world." Their petitions were
specific as well as broad, mentioning by name the laborers in the different fields.
With Miss Lyon, praying and doing were never divorced. "We will
pray," she said, " but let us also do, and do now. By waiting you may lose
the little desire you have. Feeling without action is exceedingly dangerous.
Give your cordial support to those societies whose great object is to save
the world." Giving was made a personal matter. "I would not rouse your
feelings merely," she said, "I would awaken your consciences. There is
a standard of giving for every individual. And this we are to find out,
each for herself. If it were written on the walls of our rooms how large
or how small a sum we should give, we should not be treated as moral agents.
God has a plan for every farthing lie has placed in our hands. If we are
willing and obedient we may know his plan; but no one will know how much
lie ought to give unless he has a strong desire to know. God will make
our treasures, whether few or many, a touch-stone; a test of the willingness
of our hearts. The Bible is our statute book, and when it makes known our
duty we are not to answer again. If God asks a part of our pittance, we
must not inquire how we can get along without it. We must not be careless
of what we have, but remember that God's blessing depends on the manner
we use what he has committed to us for his cause. The Bible teaches us
to give a portion of our income to the Lord, and we must give it before
we expend anything for ourselves. It seems probable that the Jews gave
at least four-tenths of their income. Shall we under the gospel dispensation,
with increased light and ability, do less? Our standard must be different
from that of those who have gone before us. We ought to rise as much higher
than our parents as we are younger, for we have more light and greater
opportunities. Let us never go back one step but rather onward to the day
of our death. If our parents or friends are not benevolent, let us seek
to supply their lack of service. This
contributing is the current money of the heart. It shows how much we love; and what a privilege, by giving money, to show our love for him who has redeemed us!"
A series of morning talks upon this subject closed with these words: "Before we take up our contribution, let us all take time in our closets to consider the worth of a single soul. When we tremble in view of the possibility of being lost ourselves, then let us do what is assigned to us for other souls. Have we ever given and toiled and prayed for those in darkness till we felt the sacrifice? Are you ready to go yourself to the ends of the earth for the salvation of others? If we send others to endure the toils, shall we not practice self-denial? If you desire in agony of heart to know what you ought to do, then give as the Lord shall show you. I often look forward to the day when we shall hear it said, 'Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these.' Let us do it unto Christ, first of all giving to him our own hearts. I seem sometimes to look out through the crevices of my prison-house and see something of the work given us to do here. And you may see more than I see and do more than I have done. I love to think that my precious daughters will do for Christ's kingdom what I have not done and fear I never shall do."
At the meeting of the American Board at Norwich, Connecticut, in the autumn of 1842, Miss Lyon was deeply impressed with the thought that the seminary should be more thoroughly pervaded with the missionary spirit. Calling a meeting of her former pupils who were present she told them that the seminary was founded to advance the missionary cause, and that she sometimes felt that its walls were built from the funds of the missionary boards, for much of that money would otherwise have been cast into their treasuries.
should give not only gold and silver, but one-half of the twelve teachers who were associated with her that year. Miss Lyon often said in after years, 'I little knew how much that prayer meeting would cost me.' She had not expected to be called upon to give up her own helpers."
Nor did she seem to be expecting calls for teachers from other lands. She was training her pupils to uproot selfishness from their hearts and lives, to be ready for any sacrifice, and so full of the missionary spirit that as teachers and mothers their lives should tell on the next generation. She was anxious about their spirit, but not about their place of labor, and never encouraged romantic ideas. "Most ladies," she said, "can do more for the missionary cause at home than abroad. Wives, mothers, and daughters have much to do to elevate the standard of liberality in those they love. Perhaps as daughters you should not be willing to have so much lavished upon you while there is so little given for the cause of Christ. By constant well-doing you may influence a brother or sister to consecrate all to him. You may even lead a brother to give himself to the missionary work."
These words spoken January 11, 1843, show that her object in founding the seminary was not, as has sometimes been stated, to train foreign missionaries. Yet because her training cultivated a Christ-like spirit, it prepared laborers for any field to which the Lord should call them. Her idea of missionary work included church work and philanthropic work of every kind.
A new era was about to open. Five days later Miss Lyon told the
school, "I have said much to you this year on cherishing a missionary spirit,
but very little on giving yourselves to the work abroad. We are now asked
to furnish two teachers for the girls' school in Oroomiah, Persia, to go
with Dr. and Mrs. Perkins, who are about to return to the work there."
Requesting any who would like to consider the question to write her a
note, she asked all to pray that the Lord would show whom he would send. Within an hour forty notes were in her hand; one of the shortest of them read:-
through the snow-drifts. Being several times upset, it was nearly midnight before they reached the home on the Shelburne hills. It was Saturday, February 18th, ten days before Dr. Perkins was to sail. For a month the mother had thought the idea abandoned. But when roused from sleep by the unexpected arrival that wintry night, the errand was too well understood to need explanation, and little was said about it then. In the morning Miss Lyon said: "I came with your daughter because I thought I almost knew your feelings. I also give up a daughter. I have thought she might comfort you in your declining years and at the same time labor for our dear seminary with me till I go home. If we are to give her up, we shall, in so doing, understand as never before the gift of the Son of God." Before the Sabbath closed, the mother was able cheerfully to say, "Go, my child, go;" and other friends consented.
On Monday Miss Lyon returned to the seminary. "When
she described to us the interview," writes one of the pupils, "her face
shone like an angel's, it seemed to me, she was so joyful in the sacrifice."
Miss Fiske followed on Thursday to find that the school had been occupying
every leisure moment in the days between with sewing f or her, and a very
good outfit was in readiness. A farewell service in the seminary hall was
conducted by Mr. Condit, and in the evening Miss Fiske met teachers and
pupils for last words. Of that hour a pupil wrote: "Shall we ever forget
how she implored us to live for Christ, how tenderly she entreated the
impenitent, or the tones of her voice as she once more commended us to
her God and our God? She wept not herself but smiled and said, 'When all
life's work is done we shall meet again.' Tears and sobs were our only
reply." At two o'clock Friday morning she was on her way to Boston, where
the party embarked for Smyrna on Wednesday, March 1st. Miss Lyon, whose
whole soul was in the matter, was with her day and night, seeing that everything
was done for her which
could be done. Of her own feelings she said: "I thought I knew something of self-denial in giving money, but I am thankful that I had something else to give, for there is an inner soul that was not reached before. If I have two idols they are the seminary and the missionary cause, and these were both God's before they were mine. It is easiest, safest, and sweetest to trust him." In later years she used to say, "When I have been most devoted to the Lord's work throughout the world, I have found that he was, caring most tenderly for the seminary."
Instead of visiting Mrs. Banister or Mrs. Porter, as had been desired, Miss Lyon remained at Deacon Safford's for uninterrupted thought and prayer for her beloved charge. Returning to the seminary March 7th, just at the time of the afternoon exercise, she gave an account of the sailing, and closed with these words: "Young ladies, you have one less to labor for you, but I trust not one less to pray for you. The last word I said to Miss Fiske was, 'Pray, pray for us.' And as I watched her till she was lost to my sight I could but feel that with her last look on her native land she prayed for you. Will you not pray for yourselves?" She went from the seminary hall to meet her teachers. One of them wrote Miss Fiske: "Miss Lyon's heart was too full for us to ask her of your stay in Boston. She repeated to us her last request of you and asked of us, almost in agony, 'Is there one here to pray?' We went in silence to our rooms convinced that we had a work to do in our closets."
The next day Miss Lyon wrote to Mrs. Banister: "Our young ladies
are more and more youthful every year, but they are so docile that ours
is a very sweet home. There is more missionary interest than usual and
more desire among some Christians to be prepared for the service of God.
But alas! one thing is lacking - the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. According
to former experience the harvest time for this year will be passed in four
or five weeks. The short summer
term is a favorable time for fixing impressions, but not for the work of conviction and conversion. Nearly sixty of our number are without hope. As teachers, as an institution, we greatly need a revival. I fear to go forward, I dare not stand still, I cannot go back. Will you not set apart a little time every day until you hear again, to pray that we may be taught what the Lord would have us do? For a few days I design to study two passages upon prayer - Luke xi. 5-13, and James i. 5-8; would you like to study these daily with me as you pray?"
At morning prayers, March 9th, she told the school why she had remained
in Boston, and that she returned when she did, that she might find others
to pray also, but now, as when she sought to find the missionary teacher,
she could not ask any individual, lest she should not ask the right one.
If any had a heart to pray she entreated her to do so. She dwelt upon the
sorrows and prayers of Christ till Christians felt that they were almost
strangers to sympathy with him in his sorrow for the world. The same day
she wrote Mrs. Safford: "It is so seldom that I leave this beloved household,
that my meeting with them after the absence of only a few days awakens
tender emotions on both sides. Such things are trifles in themselves, but
I believe the most trifling circumstances should be used for the same great
end. With regard to efforts in behalf of the impenitent all is dark. But
with a burden on my heart which I cannot describe, there is something in
my soul like trust in God, which is like a peaceful river overflowing all
its banks. Light can shine out of darkness, and I have great hope that
we shall receive a blessing whether God shall permit Mr. Kirk to come to
us or not. I have an increasing sense of the importance of a work of the
Spirit which shall reach our whole number. You recollect Mr. Kirk's description
of the difference between passing through the valley and rising up into
a revival, and leaping immediately into one. We need experience of the
first kind. 0n
this account I query whether it may not be better to defer Mr. Kirk's visit. If he could stay two or three weeks I would as soon that he come to-day as at any time. But if he can stay only one, or even less, it is important that he come at the right time. His fear that he could not stay long enough is my fear. It seems to me desirable that certain difficult cases should come under the influence of a strong nature and warm heart like his, and we all need some stirring means. But my own will has been kept in an even balance concerning this. I am prepared to acquiesce in the will of the Lord. But let me beseech of you to offer every day a prayer on our behalf, till you. hear again-which shall be soon."
The next letter Mrs. Safford received was from Miss Whitman. Miss Lyon had a severe cold and the physician feared lung fever. She was reserving all her strength for the school, and was giving connected instruction on the subject of prayer. One text was Abraham's prayer for Sodom, which she compared to a weight thrown into a balance that would have turned in favor of Sodom had ten righteous persons been found there. She was watching a trembling balance and entreating Christians to cast in their prayers. It had begun to turn when she was next able to write, March 17th.
"Beyond doubt the Spirit of God is moving on the face of the waters.
My distressing doubt about Using extra means has been somewhat removed.
The interest in missions, in the general path of duty, and other like themes,
seems changing to an increasing desire for the special influences of the
Holy Spirit. I have been able to meet all my appointments, though sometimes
I have concentrated into half an hour all the strength of three or four
hours. I have had a short extra meeting for the impenitent every day. In
these meetings I have no very definite plan, my waiting eyes are unto God.
It is sweet to carry every burden and every care to him and from day to
day the path has been made plain. I have no knowledge of future duty and
I ask for none.
My lungs have not allowed me the privilege of individual conversation, but the teachers and others are instant in season and out of season."
"March 21. - A large number of conversions have occurred within three days. The Sabbath is of inestimable value. It is worth more than all other days in bringing thoughts into captivity to the will of Christ. In times of revival it seems to be the day he delights peculiarly to honor. The means we are using are so small and simple I can hardly tell what they are, and yet they are numerous. We simply walk by the light that is given day by day. Our regular business goes forward as usual, but we turn from other sources of social enjoyment or improvement, and gather up the fragments of time for seeking the divine blessing. The teachers are all of one mind and one heart, and are emphatically the leaders of the flock. I want you should pray fervently for --. She retains her hope, but something in her revolts from everything social in feeling or action. I cannot find that an individual in the house has been able to approach her. I have met minds in a similar state, and have judged it best to avoid meeting her on the subject hitherto; but many things can be done in a time of revival which cannot at other times, and I hope I may have the privilege of doing something for her. It is not best she should know that her ease is mentioned between us. We are witnessing interesting reconversions among those who have long called themselves Christians; but we have some cases that seem almost hopeless. They have passed seasons of conviction, perhaps indulged hope once or twice, and are now clothed in the self -righteousness of not being deceived this time."
"March 25. - Your letter gave me joy. I knew you were praying f
or us but I wanted to have you tell me so. We are in greater need of prayer
than ever. Of the sixty over whom I wept and prayed so much when with you
three weeks ago,, only a remnant are now without hope. But some very trying
cases are left."
"March 27. - We have set apart this day for fasting and prayer, to seek a blessing on our family, and on ourselves. It is a great thing to give up all business for a whole day that we may meet God in the inner sanctuary. I trust the day is brought as a willing offering, and that it will be accepted through the blood of the everlasting covenant."
"April 13. - In all my privileged experience with the work of the Spirit, this I think has been of unparalleled rapidity; and yet I have never witnessed more quietness, nor any less of reaction in the result. It has seemed like a sudden, heavy shower, but falling so gently that not a leaf or twig among the tender plants is disturbed; and then suddenly giving way to the beautiful sun and refreshing dews. Of sixty-six who came to us this year, strangers to Christ, all but six have accepted him as their Saviour. More than thirty in a single week. As teachers we have a great work in cherishing these, tender plants. 0, to follow Christ in this work! This desire rises from the depths of my soul with unwonted strength. Shall we not have your prayers? "
A recent letter from a pupil of that year says that Miss Lyon could not rest till every wanderer was brought into the fold. For months she followed the last one continually with her prayers, till she, too, found the Saviour.
The following is from a letter to Miss Fiske, which was accompanied
by the "Missionary Offering," a little book from which quotations have
been given in preceding chapters. "You may ask how I found time to write
it. The truth is my spirit was so stirred and my heart so burdened that
I wrote without inquiring whether I had time or not. The scenes of the
revival, the nearness of our next missionary subscription, the falling
off of the receipts of the American Board, all combined to awaken unusual
emotions. I was preparing a series of topics to present to the school,
the substance of which you will find embodied in the book I began before
the monthly concert in May. It was scarcely two days
before most of the materials were gathered together. They soon assumed a tangible form, merely as a relief to my own feelings."
Each member of the school was presented with a copy of the book.
The fear of retrenchment in mission work talked of at that time led her to say to the young Christians before her, "How anxious I should be for you if you were now to be left without Christian watch, and how much more heathen converts must require it."
The influence of this revival in 1843 was lasting, and so also was the spiritual good wrought by Miss Fiske's departure. Teachers read with their sections Dr. Perkins's "Eight Years' Residence in Persia," and all missionary intelligence had new interest. Though it was many years before there were Woman's Boards to loan illustrative costumes, the record of a meeting July 2, 1843, says: "Just at the close, Miss Williams came in dressed in Turkish style, and seated herself in the Turkish attitude." At another meeting a pupil from Kailua enters in native attire, addresses another in Hawaiian, and together they sing in that tongue a verse or two, which all recognize from the tune, as the well-known hymn, "From Greenland's icy mountains."
Beside the regular missionary meetings which most of the school
attended, a half hour or more was given in the sections every Saturday
to a recitation on missions with the use of maps. They gave six or eight
weeks in this way to the stations of the American Board. Attention was
directed likewise to the work of other missionary societies in America
and in England. The reading room was supplied with as many copies of the
Home Missionary as of the Missionary Herald and they were
in equal demand. The " Iowa Band " was just beginning its work. Much interest
was felt in the labors of colporteurs among our German population, and
in the efforts of the society for aiding Western colleges. Miss Lucy Lyon,
who had charge of the senior class in these studies, wrote Miss Fiske,
January 5, 1845: "I
usually take two or three hours to prepare for this Saturday exercise, and am more interested in it than in any other recitation. The class seem interested also."
A journal letter to Miss Fiske was begun within a week after she left. The part first sent was five and a half months on the way. Her first monthly letter was received with great joy in four months from date. It was the beginning of a steady exchange between the seminary and her missionary daughters, which cements the bonds of faith and love, and stimulates prayer.
July 19th, a month after reaching Oroomiah, Miss Fiske wrote Miss
Moore: "How often was I with you in spirit in my little state-room in the
Emma Isadora. In that precious place I opened one by one those one
hundred and thirty letters so kindly prepared for me to read on the voyage.
There were many from those not Christians; some of these revealed feelings
which I had never been able to elicit in conversation. There were many
expressions like these: 'When your eye reads these lines on the broad waters,
will you not offer one petition that I may not be lost forever?' 'Pray
for me that my present feelings be not transient, - that I may come to
Jesus now.' 'While you labor for Persia's daughters, will you not sometimes
offer a petition for your unconverted friend on Christian ground?' With
such requests before me, surely I was not wanting in subjects for prayer;
and I used to try to pray for them day by day, but I was not prepared to
hear, without deep emotion, what great blessings had been sent. Not a word
has reached me yet from the seminary, but yesterday, on taking up the New
York Observer, which the last messenger had brought, my eye fell upon
the notice of a 'precious revival' in the seminary, in which it was said
that 'all but six were rejoicing in hope.' Such unexpected intelligence
overcame me. To the question, 'Why do you weep?' I could only point to
the item in the paper. I need not say that in thought I have lived those
weeks over with you. And who are those who still refuse to sit at the feet
of the Lord Jesus? Are
they some of my own precious section? Such a revival has brought my sister teachers deep interest and deep anxiety. I would have loved to share it with you. There is a sweet delight in pointing souls to the Lamb of God."
On the first Monday of January she wrote Miss Whitman: In looking over Miss Lyon's suggestions for the observance of the day last year I cannot tell you how I felt as I read: 'Perhaps next new year's day will find some of you on a foreign shore. If so, we pledge you a remembrance within these consecrated walls.' I thought not then that privilege would be mine; but now I count your prayers the greatest favor you call confer."
To an associate at Seir she wrote: "Will not our God hear the prayers from a multitude of his people in our beloved land? If he does not, must we not feel that we are hindering the mercy drops all ready to fall?"
We can easily imagine the enthusiasm with which articles were prepared for filling a box for Miss Fiske, about a year from her leaving. It was not cooled in the least by the agreement that that offering should not diminish regular missionary subscriptions. No matter how busy the school life, willing fingers found minutes for work of that kind. Once it was by omitting the evergreen decorations of the seminary ball for thanksgiving evening, that the time might be given to work for a box which the village ladies were filling for Oodooville Seminary, Ceylon.
Rev. Dr. Hawes, who made the first annual address, made also the
eighth. After referring to the progress. which he observed in other respects,
he noted the increase in numbers, - from four to forty-nine in the graduating
class, from eighty to two hundred and forty-nine in the school; and reported
the whole number of graduates as one hundred and five; of pupils, nearly
one thousand. "A large proportion," he said, "are teaching; ten are giving
their lives to the Indians in the far West, or to the heathen in the more
During the last year, over twelve hundred dollars have been contributed by teachers and pupils for the kingdom of Christ."
In the autumn of 1845 two of the teachers, Miss Reed and Miss Foote,
left the country for India as Mrs. Howland and Mrs. Webb; another, Miss
Porter, as Mrs. Pitkin, entered the home missionary field, and several
of the pupils were about to engage in the same work. After mentioning these
facts, one of the teachers wrote Miss Fiske: "Do you not think that Miss
Lyon is full of joy? Her cup was almost full when, for two successive years,
our contributions amounted to more than one thousand dollars, but how much
more she rejoices to give her daughters to the work!" In a few months she
was called to make an offering which touched her heart as no other had
done, when three more teachers left the seminary for work abroad - Miss
Moore, the associate principal, as Mrs. Burgess, with Miss Martha Chapin
as Mrs. Hazen, for India; and Miss Lucy Lyon as Mrs. Lord, for China. Of
these changes she wrote: "I have nothing to say but to ask that the will
of the Lord be done, whether we are with or without means to carry out
our plans. My only wish is for the furtherance of his kingdom. We know
SO little Of the great plans of God that it is safest to leave all with
him." But when she told the school of Miss Moore's plans, she could only
compose herself by asking them to sing, "God moves in a mysterious way."
It even told upon her health. Some months later she wrote Mrs. Burgess:
"I suppose I am in danger, - my lungs especially. The excitement of giving
up you and Lucy may have laid the foundation. But I am altogether reconciled
to your going, and have not had the least regret, though my heart clings
to you with increasing interest. Your first letter came Saturday. I have
read it twice and lent it to Mr. Condit, though I expect to lend the original
to but few, for I wish to keep it as long as I live. Your interest in remembering
me is a great comfort, but not to you so important a duty as many that
have a claim on you in
your new home." To Mrs. Banister she wrote: "I have passed through many scenes of tender interest, concentrating the feelings of years into one, and manifestly increasing my gray hairs. I feel the loss of my two nieces - Mrs. Burgess and Mrs. Lord - socially, more than in our work, though both were very important to the school." The loss to the seminary was gain to the work in India, where Mrs. Burgess labored with the same faithful zeal till her death in 1853.
To Miss Whitman, the remaining associate principal, the prospect
at the opening in 1846 looked dark. She not only missed the teachers on
whom they had leaned, but found herself unable to take up all that Miss
Lyon was forced to lay down. The latter was able to speak in the hall but
a few times the first term. Once she said: "The effort of raising my voice
warns me that it may continue but a little longer. If I say anything which
will lead you to live as you would wish to live and to fit you for such
an eternity as you would wish to enjoy, treasure it up. It often seems
to me that I am doing for you my last work." In their need, Mr. Condit
often conducted a religious service, as did also Mr. Hawks. Their labors
were greatly blessed. There were ninety in the family without hope in Christ,
and thirty of them had been under Miss Lyon's instruction for one year
or more. The teacher who took Miss Lyon's place in meeting this class went
from them one Sabbath evening feeling that she could not again undertake
to hold the attention of ninety careless girls. The next Sabbath evening
their meeting was the monthly concert, and on the second they had a preacher
from abroad. Before she was called to meet the ninety again, sixty of them
were rejoicing in Christ. Next to the preaching of the word, the most important
agency employed by the Spirit in this work was the labors of a number of
the middle class who banded together to help the teachers by their prayers
and efforts. "That precious middle class" was Miss Lyon's name for them
In the following September Miss Lyon lost a long-tried friend in the death of Mr. Condit. He had been the pastor of the village church during all her residence in South Hadley, sympathizing with her in her trials, and sharing in her joys. September 10th she wrote Mrs. Burgess: "Our dear Mr. Condit is very near his home. The king of terrors is approaching with gentle step as if loth to take his prey. Here I am alone in this great building; no one near to interrupt my grief. I love this solitude, for tears and prayers in his behalf. The years of our acquaintance pass in rapid review. As I dwell on him as a friend, a Christian, a counselor, a pastor, sadness spreads over my soul. And yet it is not all sorrow. Heaven seems to be opening her gates to receive another servant of Christ."
He was preceded to the heavenly world by a young teacher from whom Miss Lyon had anticipated much, and whose loss she deeply felt. Referring to her death she said: "I thank God that I do not know that any pupil of this beloved seminary has died, without hope in Christ. If there has been such a death, I have been spared the pain of hearing of it."
Not long after Dr. Perkins returned to Persia he wrote Miss Lyon: "We feel under great obligations to you for the deep interest you took and the efforts you made to secure for us such a helper as Miss Fiske. If under her fostering care a scion of Mount Holyoke Seminary shall spring up on the plains of Oroomiah to bless benighted Persia, I know you will feel amply rewarded. May the Lord give you the satisfaction of seeing Miss Fiske's mantle rest on many of your pupils."
Miss Lyon replied: "It is my opinion that the leadings of Providence justify our encouraging unmarried women to become foreign missionaries."
In June, 1847, as she was giving up another daughter, she wrote
Miss Fiske: "I should love to tell you how the Lord has led me since we
parted; how one comfort has been taken and another given, and how the
promise, 'As thy days so shall thy strength be,' has never failed. And I should love to tell you how my heart goes with Miss Rice, as I send her forth like one of my own children. I commend her to your love, to your prayers, to a participation in all your labors, joys, and sorrows. May you both live long, abundant in labors, earnest in prayer, rich in faith, and at last receive an unfading crown of glory. Ask Mr. Perkins to be a father to another of my daughters."
Interest was added to the anniversary in 1847 by the reunion of the classes of '44 and '45. Nearly forty were present. The journal says: "Miss Lyon was delighted to welcome back so many, and invited the two classes to hold another reunion here ten years hence. After we returned from the church she stood in her accustomed place. and gave us all a few parting words."
When Miss Lucy Lyon left for China, her successor in writing the "Journal for the missionaries who were once members of the seminary," was Miss Susan L. Tolman. After two years she too became one of its readers, as the wife of Rev. Cyrus T. Mills, in India. Eighteen copies were then needed to supply those abroad.
"We are accustomed to think," writes an early graduate, "that woman's missionary activity is of recent origin, but those of us who sat at the feet of Miss Lyon when she wrote the 'Missionary Offering,' and when she sent forth Miss Fiske and Mrs. Burgess, feel that she was in spirit the first president of the first missionary society, and perhaps the parent of all the others."
Yet it should be remembered that woman's gifts to missions began
before those days. "Small as her pecuniary means are," said Dr. Anderson
in 1839, "nearly one-half of all that has been raised in our country for
publishing the gospel among the heathen, has been contributed by woman;
and probably the number of active friends in that sex is two or three times
as great as in the other."
The year 1847-8 was prosperous. The changes which Miss Moore's departure required had been made. The influence of the revival of 1846 was still felt in the consistent lives of the converts. March 9th Miss Whitman wrote: "The aspect of the special interest has been very different from that of last year. Instead of an overwhelming influence, the still, small voice seemed to speak to individual hearts, and so silent and unseen was the work that we never wished to speak of it as a revival, and there was no time when we did not feel the greatest solicitude lest the work should decline. Yet within a few weeks fifty have indulged the Christian hope." Miss Lyon said near the close of the year that the Holy Spirit had never before exercised his converting influences in the family for so long a time.
Her own health was so much improved that years of usefulness seemed to lie before her. The following summer she spent much time superintending workmen in making improvements in the domestic hall, and when the teachers returned in September, she told them that the new arrangements were then as perfect as she could make them. Committing housekeeping cares to others she turned more exclusively to the mental and moral interests of her pupils; and never did she manifest more enthusiasm in her plans, nor present truth with more unction than during this winter. She noticed this increased vigor, and said to one of her teachers, "I don't know why it is that my mind is so active. It sometimes seems to me that I am doing my last work."
She spent the winter vacation at Deacon Porter's, giving this reason:
"I am borne down as never before with a sense of responsibility in teaching
eternal truths, and I wanted to come to my 'resting home,' that in this
quiet chamber I might seek for wisdom, grace, and strength for the great
work. The teachers were urgent that I should go to New York to sit for
a portrait. I was reluctant to decline their generous offer, but my picture
seemed of so little consequence
compared with a better preparation for my important duties that I could not go."
Formerly she had taken with her a long list of business items on which to consult Deacon Porter, but this time business was left behind. Mrs. Porter wrote of the visit: "Never since my first acquaintance with her have I elsewhere seen the principles of the gospel so strikingly exemplified as in her life. But on account of her active business habits and her constant planning for improvements in the seminary, I had not seen so much of the devotional state of mind as appeared in this visit. Her theme was Christ and the privilege of laboring for him and making sacrifices for his sake. I think I have never witnessed a nearer approach to the mercy-seat than in social prayer just before she left. It was almost the last sound of her voice I ever heard."
Early in the second term, Miss Lyon was suffering from a severe
cold with nervous headache, when she became aware of a fatal turn in the
illness of a pupil. Regardless of herself she went to the sick bed, spoke
words of comfort, and bent over the sufferer to catch her replies. Her
disease had progressed so rapidly that friends must be speedily summoned
from a distance. It was the evening before the February fast, which had
been anticipated with deep solicitude. With these anxieties upon her mind,
Miss Lyon spent a sleepless night and on Thursday was able to say but a
few words to the school. On Friday she met them both morning and afternoon
and turned their thoughts to the celestial city, that as its gates opened
to receive their companion they might catch a glimpse of its glories. With
rapture she exclaimed, "O, if it were I, how happy I should be to go!"
but added, "not that I would be unclothed while I can do anything for you,
my dear children." To those out of Christ she said with great tenderness:
"If one of you were on that sick bed, I could not take your hand and go
down with you to the brink of the world of despair. It would be too painful
for me. I should feel I must draw the veil
and leave you." She urged them to come at once to Christ, not from fear of death, but because of his infinite perfections. In view of the tendency to excitement, she spoke upon passages which teach that anxiety for the future shows distrust of God, and said with great emphasis, "Shall we fear what he is about to do? There is nothing in the universe that I fear but that I shall not know all my duty, or shall fail to do it."
At family prayers that evening, she read the fifth of Second Corinthians,
and went from table to go with the sorrowing father to the sick room, and
see the daughter's happy look of recognition. She had feared that he would
not arrive till too late for this and now was so grateful that she could
not rest. After another sleepless night she met the school for prayer before
the remains of their beloved companion were borne away. She read the hymn
beginning "Why do we mourn departing friends." It was the last time her
voice was heard in the school room. In the quiet secured to her that day,
she slept, and at night appeared refreshed. But the mail brought word of
the suicide of a nephew, without evidence that he was a Christian. This
was an overwhelming blow and the night was one of anguish. On Monday it
was evident that erysipelas had fastened upon her. Though its form was
mild she realized that the danger was great, but said repeatedly, "The
will of the Lord be done; I desire to be spared only to labor for him."
At one time she tried to dictate some of her thoughts in regard to the
school in case she should not recover, but was not able. At another, she
said, "I should love to come back and watch over the seminary, but God
will take care of it." By Thursday there was congestion of the brain. S.
D. Brooks, M. D., was then physician both in the village and the seminary.
He was untiring in his attentions, spending three consecutive nights in
the sick-room. But the disease made rapid progress, and her lucid moments
were few. Monday evening, March 5th, the voice of Dr. Laurie, her pastor,
seemed to recall her to
consciousness. He asked, "Is Christ precious?" Summoning all her energies to utter it, her last word was, "Yes." Noticing a continued effort, he said, "You need not speak; God can be glorified in silence." An indescribable smile was her reply. An hour later, God had taken her to himself.
The funeral was on Thursday. Till then the body rested in the little room opening southward from the seminary hall. Before the public service, the young ladies took their last look of the peaceful features. After prayer by Dr. Laurie, the three relatives present, the trustees, teachers, school, and other friends walked to the church. The journal says: "We were forcibly reminded of anniversary occasions, and the thought that we were following that dear form for the last time was almost overwhelming. Prayer was offered by Rev. Dr. Harris, of Conway, and by Rev. Mr. Swift, of Northampton. The sermon was by Rev. Dr. Humphrey, from the texts, 'The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,' and I The memory of the just is blessed.' The hymns sung were those beginning, 'God moves in a mysterious way,' 'Servant of Christ, well done,' and 'Why do we mourn departing friends.' From church the procession moved to the grave, which is on a gentle eminence in the seminary grounds, a little to the east of the building. Gathering round it, the school sang, 'Sister, thou wast mild and lovely' - varying the hymn to suit the occasion, and were addressed in a few appropriate words by Dr. Laurie."
The lot, thirty feet square, is enclosed by an iron railing and
covered by a growth of English ivy from slips sent by hundreds of loving
pupils. A simple massive monument of marble bears on the west side the
On the north side:-
Rest from thy loved employ:
The battle fought, the victory won,
Enter thy Master's joy."